ensoUpdated 09.10.2018

When Moses was lifted high above the Earth and shown the creations of God, the father described how the work was done:

by the word of my power, have I created them, which is mine Only Begotten Son, who is full of grace and truth. (Moses 1:32)

The Only Begotten Son of the Father was full of grace and truth at the time the Father spoke to Moses. Since Christ was at that point still dwelling as a God in a timeless, eternal state, having not condescended yet to mortality, he was full of grace at the foundation of the world as well.

This language arises again in the creation narrative in the Book of John:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made…

And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. (John 1:1-3,14)

Joseph Smith restored a portion of John’s record, clarifying that Christ was not always full of grace and truth, but grew in grace and truth until he possessed a fullness.

And I, John, bear record that I beheld his glory, as the glory of the Only Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth, even the Spirit of truth, which came and dwelt in the flesh, and dwelt among us.

And I, John, saw that he received not of the fulness at the first, but received grace for grace; And he received not of the fulness at first, but continued from grace to grace, until he received a fulness; And thus he was called the Son of God, because he received not of the fulness at the first. (D&C 93:11-14).

God’s revelation to Moses establishes that this process of growth occurred before the creation. Both iterations of John’s record indicate that John received the same knowledge Moses did, by having beheld Christ’s premortal glory, including being instructed in his role in the creation. At some point prior to the foundation of the world, Christ obtained a fulness grace and truth, thus qualifying himself to be called “the Son of God.” John’s excerpt in D&C 93 is not only a description of Christ’s growth in mortality on this Earth, but also of a process he had previously gone through. He was full of grace and truth when he arrived.

When John’s record was written in Greek, John or the translator chose the Greek words charis and aletheia, to describe Christ’s “grace” and “truth.” Charis denotes goodwill, loving-kindness, and divine favor. In this case, Christ was full of those attributes directed outwardly at those around him. Aletheia is truth, but truth in the sense of “things as they really are,” true to fact, including truth in the moral sphere. It is the kind of truth conveyed by the spirit of God (Jacob 4:13).

John’s record testifies that Christ’s disciples grew “charis anti charis,”  or ‘grace in exchange for grace’ until they received “of his fulness.”  D&C 93:12 confirms that Christ had grown in the same way. By manifesting grace he received grace himself. That means at some point prior to the foundation of the Earth, Christ had the same opportunity his disciples had on Earth: to manifest grace to others and thereby grow in grace himself.

D&C 93 also instructs us in how to gain truth:

And truth is knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come; And whatsoever is more or less than this is the spirit of that wicked one who was a liar from the beginning.

The Spirit of truth is of God. I am the Spirit of truth, and John bore record of me, saying: He received a fulness of truth, yea, even of all truth; And no man receiveth a fulness unless he keepeth his commandments. He that keepeth his commandments receiveth truth and light, until he is glorified in truth and knoweth all things. (D&C 93:24-28)

Christ’s experiences before the foundation of the world gave him a forum to obey all of the commandments of God needed to be “glorified in truth and [know] all things.” That process required him to be diligent and obedient (D&C 130:18-19). It could not happen without an exercise of agency, which means that there must have been opposition and enticement (2 Nephi 2:11-16).

Christ must have been presented with a probationary state similar to our own before the foundation of the world. We are faced with situations that let us choose grace: we can forgive our debtors, we can withhold judgment, we make intercession for those who have wronged us, we can love the unlovable. We are faced with situation that require us to be diligent and faithful in keeping God’s commandments, as we are constantly tempted to break, modify, or ignore them. He did those things here, certainly, but he had done them previously before the foundations of the Earth. There are eternal laws by which one becomes “full of grace and truth,” and only a probationary state of mortality presents us with the opportunity to comply with those laws:

Alma 34:33 And now, as I said unto you before, as ye have had so many witnesses, therefore, I beseech of you that ye do not procrastinate the day of your repentance until the end; for after this day of life, which is given us to prepare for eternity, behold, if we do not improve our time while in this life, then cometh the night of darkness wherein there can be no labor performed.

34 Ye cannot say, when ye are brought to that awful crisis, that I will repent, that I will return to my God. Nay, ye cannot say this; for that same spirit which doth possess your bodies at the time that ye go out of this life, that same spirit will have power to possess your body in that eternal world.

Christ became who he is by choosing grace and truth in a probationary state. He had to learn the hard way. If we want to become like him, we have to choose to do so here and now.

If we die, graceless and full of lies, claiming to have “done our best” at trying to keep God’s commandments, there is no fairy dust that can save us in our sins. We will enter eternity naked, fully aware of our own filthiness in comparison to Christ’s perfection, and wish that mountains would fall on us and hide our shame (Alma 12:14). Mortality is most precious for that reason. It gives us time to repent, to change, to grow. Here we can grow “grace for grace” and we can choose righteousness. Only by doing so can we ensure that Samuel the Lamanite’s words will not apply to us:

 But behold, your days of probation are past; ye have procrastinated the day of your salvation until it is everlastingly too late, and your destruction is made sure; yea, for ye have sought all the days of your lives for that which ye could not obtain; and ye have sought for happiness in doing iniquity, which thing is contrary to the nature of that righteousness which is in our great and Eternal Head.

O ye people of the land, that ye would hear my words! And I pray that the anger of the Lord be turned away from you, and that ye would repent and be saved. (Helaman 13:37-38)

09.10.2018: A blog post by WV Smith alerted me to the recent publication of a journal of Wilford Woodruff that contains the following teaching from Joseph Smith in 1842:

“Jan 30th Joseph the Seer taught the following principl that the God & father of our Lord Jesus Christ was once the same as the Son or Holy Ghost but having redeemed a world he had a son Jesus Christ who redeemed this earth the same as his father had a world which made them equal & the Holy Ghost would to the same when in his turn & so would all the Saints who inherited a Celestial glory so their would be Gods many & Lords many their were many mansions even 12 from the abode of Devils to the Celestial glory”

You can see this entry at the bottom of the 5th scanned image of the book here https://dcms.lds.org/delivery/DeliveryManagerServlet?dps_pid=IE11092999

I consider this very strong validation of this post’s thesis.